How to Find the Best Truck Driver School near Little Rock Arkansas
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Little Rock AR. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Little Rock residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Little Rock AR, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B CDL is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Little Rock AR truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Little Rock AR area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Little Rock AR schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arkansas licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arkansas and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Little Rock AR schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Little Rock AR schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Little Rock AR schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arkansas, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arkansas testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Little Rock AR school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Little Rock AR employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Little Rock AR area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Right Little Rock AR CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Little Rock AR.